Episode 26: The Seven Noses of Soho
Learn about the varied history behind some of the best of Soho's architecture along with artistic facial features in an ever-changing community.
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Hello and welcome to our London History Podcast, where we share our love of London, its people, places and history in 20-minute espresso shot episodes served with a dash of personality. I am your host, Hazel Baker, London Tour Guide and CEO of London Guided Walks, providing private tours, treasure hunts, guided walks, and live London quizzes to Londoners and visitors alike.
To accompany this podcast, we also have hundreds of London history related blog posts for you to enjoy, absolutely free. And don't forget we've launched The Daily London, providing you with a couple of minutes of daily inspiration of things to do in London for Londoners. You can listen on iTunes, Spotify, or even add it to your Alexa flash briefing. All you need to do is go to londonguidedwalks.co.uk/flash.
What we discussed:
Today, we're going to be talking about The Seven Noses of Soho. You may be surprised that 12.5% of Britain CCTV surveillance cameras are dotted around Central London. With the average Londoner being caught on camera 300 times a day.
If you work that out, that's half a million CCTV cameras. There are 15,516 cameras in action on London Underground alone with the most being in King's Cross and St. Pancras. How many? 408. And they monitor roughly 81 million people per year. The two London boroughs with the most amount of cameras per 1000 people are Wandsworth and Hackney.
Now Hackney, I can understand. But I must admit, I was surprised with Wandsworth being up there. I mean, especially as the borough has the lowest crime rate in Central London, but maybe that's something to do with the CCTV cameras. What has this got to do with today's podcast? All should be revealed.
So the first question to ask really is what are The Seven Noses of Soho? And basically they're casts of noses stuck onto buildings in Central London. And it's said that there are seven of them. And if you find all of these noses, then you will find infinite wealth. I however have found them several times and I'm still waiting.
The noses appeared in 1997. And no one knew who had put them up or why. But after 14 years, the truth came to light. An artist by the name of Rick Buckley claimed responsibility for attaching not 7 but 35 casts of his own nose, onto external walls of buildings in Central London. These included The National Theatre, St. Pancras Hotel, and even Nelson's Column.
So what causes a man to stick his own nose casts onto buildings? Well, he had been inspired by Situationist Internation, which is an organisation of social revolutionaries involving artists, intellectuals, and political theorists. And he wanted to protest against the ever-growing popularity of the use of CCTV.
He went around Central London at night with a stepladder and glue hidden in a tube of toothpaste and under the noses of the CCTV cameras, he embarked on his artistic but silent statement against big brother. And most of the noses over time have been removed. And yet, despite the ever changing nature of London, a few remain.
So I'm going to guide you through the history and the nasal passage ways of Soho and the West End. The glue that sticks all of them together, are The Seven Noses of Soho.
First up is Admiralty Arch. Unfortunately, the Admiralty Arch nose can't be seen at the moment as it's undergoing a hundred million pound renovation to create a 96-bedroom Waldorf Astoria Hotel, and Private Member's Club. Will the nose survive? Who knows? Perhaps we'll just have to wait until the hotel opens in 2022.
For the 14 years that the noses were on the streets of London without anybody knowing who was behind them or indeed why, then it's natural for urban legends to build up around them. And the one for Admiralty Arch is a little bit of a strange one.
And when you're there, look around at the gorgeous lampposts surrounding the area with the beautiful ships, because of course, Admiralty Arch is attached to the Admiralty.
If you're in Covent Garden, maybe one day to pop to Endell Street, which is where a another nose is on the North End. Endell Street connects Shaftesbury Avenue by the Shaftesbury Theatre.
So if you've been counting than you counted that we have now completed seven noses of Soho. Hopefully by the descriptions that I've given you, you'll be able to go onto the streets of London and hunt them down yourselves.
If you're a little bit lazy or you want to know more information about the street you're walking through, then I am more than happy to take you on Private Nosey Around Soho, which is bookable online on our website. I hope you've enjoyed today's episode.
If you're wanting photos of the noses, then please check out the show notes on londonguidedwalks.co.uk/podcast. And also there's a transcript there as well to help you navigate your own way. If you have already then thank you very much for leaving a 5 star review. If you haven't already, shame on you! Just click the five stars it's that easy. Or if you do have a little bit of more time, then please do write to us and let us know what you enjoy in your review.
Also, I'd like to do shout out to Hector, Horace, Howard and Ben, as you do your weekly walk and listening to our podcast, it's lovely to have you with us.
That's all for now. I'll see you next week.
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